In Donald Trump's eyes, the place America should hold in the world is one where international rules and laws don't apply. America goes where it wants, takes what it wants, kills whomever it wants and answers to no one.
Trump's understanding of history appears to be limited. He would take license to ignore laws that limit American powers. He conveniently ignores the historical record when the facts don't suit his narrative.
The GOP presidential nominee's foreign policy speech on Monday in Youngstown, Ohio, underscored the dangers posed by the potential presidency of someone so clearly unprepared for the job.
"We will defeat radical Islamic terrorism, just as we have defeated every threat we have faced in every age before," Trump declared after presenting a long list of terrorist attacks that he laid at the feet of President Barack Obama. "But we will not defeat it with closed eyes, or silenced voices."
Looking back nostalgically on the pre-Obama days, he said, "Libya was stable. Syria was under control. Egypt was ruled by a secular president and an ally of the United States. Iraq was experiencing a reduction of violence."
These were not off-the-cuff misstatements. Trump was reading from a teleprompter. So he clearly doesn't know that Libya and Syria were ruled by brutal dictators. Egypt's "secular" president had a long history of human rights violations and subverted democracy repeatedly to perpetuate his regime's power.
The lull in Iraqi violence occurred in large part because the American military paid off tribal chiefs to win their cooperation. In 2008, then-Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki demanded that U.S. troops leave his country by the end of 2011. President George W. Bush agreed. Obama inherited the deadline.
If Trump believed that period was so rosy, why did he state in 2007 that the United States needed to pull out of Iraq immediately, and that any delay in leaving was just "wasting time"? Was Trump wrong in his 2007 assessment? By his own definition Monday, he was.
Trump stated that the United States should have seized Iraqi oil during the 2003 invasion as a spoil of war. Under what law does Trump believe the United States had any such authority?
The candidate also has erroneously stated that Obama created the Islamic State. In fact, the group evolved from al-Qaida in Iraq, which formed during the early chaos of the U.S. occupation under Bush's direction. Islamic State formally declared its existence in Syria, not Iraq.
Trump seems to long for the days when oppressive dictatorships ruled, before pro-democracy movements rose up during the Arab Spring revolts. If he models his leadership style on the likes of Muammar Gadhafi, Bashar al-Assad and Saddam Hussein, voters should shudder at the greater America that looms under a Trump presidency.
REPRINTED FROM THE ST LOUIS POST DISPATCH